Fall 2014 • Vol. XXXVI No. 4 Book Reviews |

Riffing on America

The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song That Marches On. By John Stauffer and Benjamin Soskis. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 392 pp. $29.95, hardcover. Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker. By Stanley Crouch. New York: HarperCollins, 2013. 384 pp. $27.99, hardcover. At first glance, two recent books on American music seem worlds apart. John Stauffer and Benjamin Soskis's The Battle Hymn of the Republic is a cultural history of a nineteenth-century song that for many Americans has become a secure reference point, a repository of familiar images and steady rhythms that communicate tradition, patriotism, and a sense of national mission. Stanley Crouch's Kansas City Lightning, in contrast, focuses on the jazz genius Charlie Parker, the alto saxophonist whose music is anything but traditional: innovative and experimental, it flouts convention at every turn. On a closer examination, however, there are significant similarities

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David S. Reynolds is a distinguished professor at the CUNY Graduate Center. His most recent book is Lincoln’s Selected Writings (Norton 2015). His other books include Walt Whitman’s America (winner of the Bancroft Prize and Ambassador Book Award), Beneath the American Renaissance (winner of the Christian Gauss Award), John Brown, Abolitionist (winner of the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award), Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America, and Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson.

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